Friday, June 19, 2009

Methylene chloride

During the window prep, I decided to try out my new paint stripper, which like most paint strippers is based on methylene chloride. It comes in a metal can with a plastic spray bottle, so I poured some over into the spray bottle and sprayed some onto the window frame.

Nothing came out.

Ah - you have to turn the nozzle! I did so, and a spray of methylene chloride splashed back off the window onto my hand and forehead (fortunately, I wear glasses).

I have never actually experienced chemical burns; now I know why they call it that. It was basically like a hundred little fire ants on my forehead. Luckily, my head fits well under the new kitchen faucet.

There was no permanent damage, except to my pride, which heals quickly. And yes, I found the rubber gloves with great alacrity, and followed the instructions from that point on.

Oh, the paint! Yeah, it stripped it pretty well. I want to strip it because the top layer, a white paint that's probably latex, peels right off the layer below, which is ... I don't know what it is. Probably lead, except it's in suspiciously good condition for paint that would have to be over thirty years old. It's just that I can't imagine this property having ever even heard a rumor of lead remediaton. Ha! It is to laugh!

But clearly I need to repaint the window frames, so it makes sense to me to get everything off them first that will come off easily. Besides, it was a good excuse to try out a new toy, even if it's just a chemical.


  1. I used that in lab-- methylene chloride, not paint stripper-- and yeah, it's a weird feeling. In my case, I tended to get a drop or two on my hands while dispensing it, and then feel weird heat through my gloves.

  2. I really prefer to use an old brush to paint the stuff on. And now you know why. I just don't like the idea of spraying any kind of caustic stuff.

    Those lead paint scrapings won't hurt you, but make sure you bag them up before you dispose of them. The main problem with lead paint is ingestion by the kiddies (and pets).

    Once all the cheap latex is gone and you have a smooth substrate, you can reprime and repaint with a good oil-base, and you should have a finish that will last years and years. There are old houses in Dallas that I repainted 20-25 years ago whose finishes still look great.

  3. Brush, huh? Yeah, I find myself in utter agreement. So I just pour it over into a cup of some sort? I think a brush would give you more even coverage with less dripping, too. The spray bottle is just a marketing ploy to make it look easier -- worked on me. But I'm not convinced.

  4. Quite possible your underlayer of paint is just oil paint - latex doesn't stick to it without an intermediary primer, and many old houses had exclusively oil paint. It wears a lot better over time, but it's not fun to work with, since you can't clean up with water - turpentine or mineral spirits work best.